Released: 2009, Ascendance Records
Metal music is unfortunately a victim of its own rabid fandom - not only are we swamped by endless death metal copycats trying to emulate everything from Suffocation to Dismember or black metal tryhards on their Mayhem and Burzum fix, but it also breeds a certain entrenchment and an unwillingness to try something new for fear of being labelled 'untrue'. Diablo Swing Orchestra, thankfully, skirt this complaint by a very wide berth indeed.
The Swedes claim to be descended from a 16th century sect of rebel musicians who performed orchestral works in defiance of the newly installed Protestant Lutheran church at the time. The Devil's Orchestra c. 1500s came to a spectacular end: after their final concert, played in public, they were arrested and hanged. Stockholm 2003, two descendants of two members of the final orchestra meet by chance and discover their ancient and eldritch musical heritage. Diablo Swing Orchestra is born, and metal music will never be the same again.
SING-ALONG SONGS FOR THE DAMNED AND DELIRIOUS is eclectic in every sense of the word. I mean, if anyone can name me a band that sends extreme voltage through 1940s Big Band jazz and infectiously corrupts 1930s swing music, that electrifies Russian folk dance music and marries it with groovecore Meshuggah guitar lines, that brings funk bass, flamenco, mariachi, oompah, Broadway, doo-wop choir, carny music, slinky Latin rhythms, light opera and Bossa Nova into a harmonious whole, all the while keeping it unmistakably METAL, well, send me an email because I do want to hear about it. In the mean time, let's talk about Diablo fucking Swing fucking Orchestra.
Why the hell, you may ask, would any self-respecting metalhead want to hear such a mishmash of styles thrown together with some downtuned electric guitar riffs simply to be called vaguely metal? I'll answer. Because you owe it to yourself to at least give a chance to a band that tries so hard to be different and yet remain metal. Because you owe it to yourself to support creativity and passion. Because you owe it to yourself to listen to good music. Period.
On SING-ALONG SONGS... the band absolutely nails everything they set out to do. They created an album that was different, that was tight and well-played, that had a coherent theme tied together with great vision and musical understanding. The styles that I listed in the third paragraph sound too diverse to be married together, at least without disastrous effects. But they're not, not for this talented bunch. Atmosphere is key to DSO's sound. Atmosphere is so nebulous to define, even harder to nail - but I think even the most sceptical among you will not deny that DSO create atmosphere in spades. This is an atmosphere of darkness, of otherworldliness, of mocking corruption and snickering putrefaction, of grandiose bluster, frolicking playfulness and catchy bombast.
Compared to their previous album, 2006's THE BUTCHER'S BALLROOM, there is much more of everything. Where THE BUTCHER'S BALLROOM was mainly operatic in flavour, with the metal taking the supporting role to the caterwauling prima donna, SING-ALONG SONGS undeniably kicks up the swing, the funk, the brass, the metal and everything else. There's a wonderful energy that runs the entire album - there's only a very slight dip in 'New World Widows' towards the middle of the album, which is a bit of a plodder. Other than that, it's consistently great throughout, from the raging brass in the first track 'A Tap Dancer's Dilemma' to the drunken Russian folk dance and crazed Finnish oompah in 'Siberian Love Affairs/Vodka Inferno'. 'Ricerca Dell'anima' features some cool-dude surf rock guitar lines, 'Bedlam Sticks' sports some Marilyn Manson industrial stylings while a noticeably Bob Dylan-ish vibe floats through 'Memoirs of A Roadkill'. While my personal favourites lie in the first half of the album, it's all good brother!
If this review seemed wordy, there are two reasons. One, DSO deserve bucketloads of praise and I'm giving it to them in the only way I know how. Two, I have no real clue what to ACTUALLY say about the album. You just need to listen to it. The novelty value may wear off after a week or so. You should welcome that time when it comes, because then you'll hear the immenseness of the album and what the band has achieved. This band is not driven by novelty. It has too much depth for that. Take the band’s back-story with a massive pinch of salt by all means, but give respect to their music.